< Ritch's Superior


Ritch's Superior Softball


Written by Jerome Ernest

Ritch's/Superior/TPS compiled a 7-year won-lost record of 508-81, winning 68 of 103 tournaments, including 16 of a possible 28 Grand Slam championships. The won-lost record the first three years -- 1991-93 -- was a gaudy 241-22, including 10 of 12 Grand Slam titles. The R/S Express went 80-7, 80-9 and 81-6. The first three seasons saw 31 championships out of 40 tournaments. There were four seconds, two thirds, and a tie for fifth, seventh and ninth. The 1992 team is the only team to claim the Grand Slam (the ISA, NSA, ASA and USSSA). The 1993 team won the first three legs, then finished a stunning ninth in the USSSA World Series, going 1-2 (losing in shocking upsets to DJ's 17-15 and Herb's 22-21). Bell Corp. was the winner of the USSSA crown that year. Frank LaTeano, the Superior half of the co-sponsorship, called the 1993 team the best. "We just seemed to do everything right," he said. . . . until the final tournament. The '93 team won its first nine tournaments, then placed third in the last regular-season tournament (Sterling Heights, Mich.) The final count that year: 12 championships in 14 tournaments.

The '93 team, which was undefeated in Grand Slam play until the USSSA, included Charles Wright, Cecil Whitehead, Doug Roberson, Ron Parnell, Darrell Beeler, Britt Hightower, Dirk Androff, Dave Steffen, Jimmy and Tot Powers, Paul Drilling, Rick Weiterman and Dennis Graser. Roberson, Parnell, Beeler, Androff and Weiterman played for R/S from 1991 through 1997. Androff died on an exercise bike the fall of 1997. Louisville Slugger had elected to merge R-S and Shen Valley into Team TPS for the 1998 season.

Composite stats for the first three seasons saw Androff compile a .751 average with 449 home runs compared to .727 and 469 HRs for Wright. Beeler and Hightower each had 381 homers, Steffen and Parnell 366 each and Roberson 351. For the three seasons, Steffen batted .689, Beeler .685 and Hightower 684. That's what you call a balanced attack. The Powers brothers had played for Steele's/Sunbelt the year before. Tot batted .679 with 146 homers, Jimmy .688 with 117 HRs.


That was the only season the Powers brothers played for Ritch's/Superior. Big Jim Fuller played for the first two R/S teams, and he set a record with a .774 batting average in 1992. That topped the record of .769 by Mike Nye for Warren Motors of Jacksonville, Fla., that had stood since 1976. Fuller, a former major league baseballer, made a bid for Nye's record in 1990. He was batting .776 after a hot start in the USSSA World Series, but faltered and finished at .767. Fuller's 2-year totals for R/S: .751 with 269 home runs. Over seven seasons, the R/S Express, in addition to winning 68 tournaments, finished second 14 times, including five times in the Grand Slam championship play.

The first five years saw a 376-48 record, with 50 championships and seven runners-up out of 71 tournaments. There were some low points. In 1996, R-S went 0-2 in the NSA; then in 1997, R-S went 0-2 in the ISA. The 1994 season saw R-S go into June (five outings) before winning a tournament. Coy Honeycutt, out of North Carolina, was the other original co-sponsor. Then came Bill Copeland, Andy Beloli and Gothrie Short. Honeycutt once made this comment: "I'd be a millionaire if I had back all the money I've spent on softball and women." His Ritch's team, with Whitehead, Hightower, Drilling and Wright, beat LaTeano's Superior club, with Roberson, Parnell, Beeler, Graser and Steffen, in the finals of the 1990 USSSA World Series at Greensboro, N.C. Steele's Silver Bullets won the first three legs of the Grand Slam that year, but was upset by Sports Hero's of Minnesota and Bell Corp. in the USSSA World Series. Steele's did not field a team in 1991, and Androff and Weiterman hooked on with Ritch's/Superior. But they didn't exactly have to beg to get on the team.

Counting two years with Steele's and five with R-S, Androff and Weiterman played on seven consecutive ISA and and seven consecutive NSA championship teams. Wright (ISA 1991, ISA 1992 and ASA 1993) and Androff (USSSA 1991, ASA 1992 and NSA 1995) were national tournament MVPs three times each, Steffen (USSSA 1992, ISA 1993), Drilling (NSA 1992, NSA 1993), Parnell (NSA 1994, ISA 1994) and Beeler (NSA 1991, ASA 1996) twice each, and Roberson (ISA 1995) and Dewayne Nevitt (ASA 1997) once each. The R-S Express tied a record by winning three consecutive Smoky Mountain Classic crowns (1993-95). Beeler, Hightower and Androff were the MVPs. Hightower was the MVP of three consecutive tournaments, starting with that MVP award in the 1994 Smoky. That's quite an accomplishment this day and time in the major ranks. R-S won the Smoky again in 1997, with Nevitt earning co-MVP honors. That was the year that Rusty Bumgardner set a record with 30 HRs for runner-up Shen Valley. Elite won three straight Smoky titles in 1983-85. Howard's won four altogether and was runner-up five times. Steele's also won three.

In 1989, Ritch's won the ASA Super and Major titles, while Superior won the USSSA World Series. That was the year that Steffen hit a record nine home runs in one game. The last one was an inside-the-park job. Honeycutt, who has been out of the game since 1993, accumulated 13 championships, topping the record of 12 by Richard Howard's teams. LaTeano's title total has climbed to 19. "Frank's obsessed," Honeycutt once remarked. LaTeano will be with the Easton-backed Chase powerhouse in 1999. Both LaTeano and Honeycutt think that the 1993 R/S team was the best of all time. "Howard's had a great team in 1981, but this team is the best," Honeycutt said at the time." LaTeano echoed the statement: "The best team ever." Not too many people will argue that fact, especially if you are talking about the best team over three years (1991-93), or five years (1991-95), or seven years (1991-97).


Here is the Ritch's Superior ball club watching someone's home run ball at Sterling Complex in Detroit.


Frank Lateao-Manager-Sponsor
Coy Honeycutt-Sponsor-Manager
Buddy Slater - Manager-Player
Andy Beloli - Sponsor-Coach

Rick Weiterman - Pitch, Infield
Cecil Whtehead - Outfield
Dirk Androff - Infield
Dave Steffen - Catcher, Pitch

Jim Fuller - Infield
Mike Shenk - infield
Dewayne Nevitt - Infield
Rick Scherr- Infield - Infield

Doug Roberson - Outfield
Darrell Beeler - infield
Britt Hightower - Outfield
Charles Wright - Infield

Paul Drilling - Pitching
Tot Powers - Infield
Jimmy Powers - Outfield
Ron Parnell - Shortstop

Mike Macenko - 1st Base-Catcher
Rusty Bumgardner - Infield
Larry Friedeau - Outfield
Hank Garris - C-1st Base

John Imlay-Sponsor
Dennis Graser - 1st base
Jacques Millier - Infield
Gothrie Short - Sponsor

Irv Stier - Infield-Outfield
Greg Cannady - Pitcher
Larry Ballard - Coach
Doug Kissane - Outfield

Dale Walters - Outfield
Keith Beloli - Sponsor
Kirk Beloli - Sponsor
Jon Meyers - Infield

Mike McCollman - Infield



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